Eight Stages in the Teacher Technology Journey

This framework is something that I’ve shared with district technology directors and coaches. If you’re curious about having me meet with your team, please fill out the contact form at the bottom of this post.

So AJ Juliani and I have started a new Classroom Questions series on rethinking professional development. We have a ton of new episodes that we’re going to release all at once this week. One of the things I’ve been thinking about lately is how professional development should work when districts are doing larger technology rollouts (such as Chromebooks or iPads or, if it’s 1996 Palm Pilots).

A few years ago, I was a technology coach and I noticed a trend. Teachers tended to go through certain stages as they adopted and integrated technology. I have found these trends to be true of my own experience when it comes to certain platforms and certain technology skills (i.e. my shift from resistance to transformation with my view of smart phones or my experiences with multimedia publishing). At that point, I developed a set of eight stages teachers went through in the technology journey.

I don’t believe that this is a lockstep process. Every person’s journey is different. However, I developed this framework because I found it helpful as I worked on the coaching process and helped create the training for teachers in our 21st Century Classroom Initiative. I also think it’s possible for teachers to be in different stages with different platforms, pedagogy, strategies and styles. So, it really is much more messy than what you see below.

A Holistic Approach

Too often, districts view professional development as the transfer of skills. Just show a teacher how to use an iPad and they’re good. Give them a set of tutorials on Google Apps and they’re golden. When teachers resist the technology, there’s an assumption that they have low motivation. They simply don’t care enough to try. However, when I created surveys for teachers in the midst of a tech adoption, I found that we were missing a few significant factors:

  • Teacher Attitudes and Paradigms: What teachers believe about teaching, learning, and technology all contribute to how they approach a technology adoption. 
  • Leadership Systems: If a technology adoption is treated as a top-down initiative, it will be met with reasonable resistance. It has to be democratic from the get-go. 
  • Policies that Reward Risk-Taking: The elephant in the room is the test scores. If administrators can create policies that will allow for mistakes and growth, more teachers will be open to change. 
  • Teacher Self-Efficacy: The biggest take-home of the survey was that many teachers had a high motivation to use technology but a low sense of self-efficacy. In other words, they wanted to use tech but they simply didn’t believe that they could.  This was also the point when I realized that teachers needed to be affirmed for the great things they were already doing rather than simply pushed to do “more tech.” 
  • Permission to Go Through Phases: People mock teachers who get excited about apps or who think that Google Docs are the best thing since chocolate covered bacon. But here’s the thing: at least they are excited. Our schools can use a little more that. It’s important that we give teachers the permission to get frustrated, excited, etc. as they move through the phases. 
  • Better Analytics: Too often, districts use the wrong metrics when evaluating the effectiveness of a rollout. For example, they look at whether or not a device is being used during observation rather than how it is being used and what factors led to the selection.

The Eight Stages

Stage
Definition
Dominant Attitude
Coaching Should Address:
Training Should Address:
1. Resistance
Teachers avoid using the new technology
Antagonistic
Reassuring teachers that things will be fine and asking for teachers to develop a framework for adoption — great teachers need to be asked for input early on rather than being told what to do
How the devices are used (with concrete examples to quality pedagogy). I found that asking a “low-tech” teacher with great pedagogy to help develop training was a way to get tech-resistant teachers on board because they felt validated.
2. Awareness
Teachers begin to be aware of how technology might work in a positive way
Cautious but open-minded
Helping teachers to see the value of using technology. As a coach, this is a chance to say, “I’d love to model a lesson in your class and you can let me know what you think of it.”
The potential uses of technology that can hook into the teacher’s current pedagogical expertise. Teachers need to be affirmed as much as challenged.
3. Experimentation
Teachers try it out. This is sort-of a “tech tourist” phase, where the tech is still an event.
Curiosity  
Allowing teachers to be creative and giving them more playtime / sandbox experiences. As a coach, you get a chance to observe the teacher using the tech in a lesson and affirm how he or she is doing.
Helping teachers make something tangible with technology — the power of tech-integrated creative work
4. Adoption
Teachers finally decide to use the technology regularly as more than just an event.
Excitement
Setting up systems, expectations, self-directed learning while also addressing a few of the teacher paradigm shifts (such as student-directed learning)
Designing systems for the integration of technology (with an emphasis on student learning) along with the integration of tech into lesson planning
5. Substitution
Teachers begin using the technology for everything
Optimism
Helping teachers see where the technology fits in with the pedagogy — challenging them to see where failure might occur
A blend of learning to use technology, planning curriculum with technology and pushing teachers to think about when “low-tech” works best
6. Disillusionment
Teachers realize that the technology isn’t perfect
Frustration
Giving them permission to be frustrated and scale back; helping to push a growth mindset that sees mistakes as a natural part of the process
Guiding teachers to develop a plan for when tech works best and when it fails
7. Integration
Teachers start choosing the technology wisely
A Sense of Normalcy
Careful examination of the pedagogy and the technology with an emphasis on how they can try new things (such as PBL) — pushing them so they don’t get too comfortable
Allowing teachers to work collaboratively on larger tech-integrated project-based units (i.e. a design thinking project) along with a vision of the connective and creative power of technology
8. Transformation
Teachers begin leveraging technology to its full potential — students using it in a more creative, connective way
A Mix of Critical and Optimistic About Technology
Getting teachers to see how technology is shaping our world (in good and bad ways) and helping them develop a vision and framework for a better pedagogy
Blending media criticism (studying the nature of technology) with projects that leverage the creative and connective power of technology; allowing these teachers to help lead and train other teachers

Final Thoughts

While every teacher goes through different stages in different ways, the biggest take home for me has been to remember that professional development should not be one-size-fits-all. It needs to be differentiated and holistic, allowing for teachers to go through natural phases on both an intellectual and emotional level. If you found this helpful at all, I have a free download of technology coaching questions I have used with teachers.

BOTTOM PART FOR TECHNOLOGY

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